Lost in Lost

(If you are a Lost fan and haven’t seen the last episode, then don’t read this. It’ll be spoilerific):

So, Lost is over. The final episode, and really the final season in general, seems to have polarized people. There seem to be two primary camps: those who really dug the solid scifi angle the show took in Seasons 4 and 5 and who were disappointed in the mystical direction the show took in the final season. And there are those who liked the mystical direction. I’d be curious to see how those camps breakdown along religious lines, if people with Jesus fish decals on their cars loved Season 6 while people with Darwin fish were those left letdown. My guess is it wouldn’t, that the breakdown would be quite complicated.

I’d count myself in the former camp. My favorite genre shows are those that start mystical and end with a pseudo-scientific explanation. That’s not to dismiss the mystical or fantasy, it’s just that mystical resolutions to mysteries tend to be pat and lazy, a literal deus ex machina. But with Lost, I realized the show was more or less abandoning its scifi angle at the beginning of Season 6 and I resigned myself to the more mystical elements.

Mythologically, the ending was frustrating. Some of it was very well done. I loved that the all-powerful Jacob turned out to be a passive-aggressive doofus who was ultimately as bad, if not worse, than his billowing brother, the alleged villain of the piece. I was frustrated that the show tended to make Jacob seem good despite all the blood on his hands (seriously, he crashed an airplane just to find a replacement)… until the very end when Ben tells Hugo that there’s a better way to run the Island than how Jacob did it. That single line really redeemed the last season. In the end, all those people died because Jacob was a massive prick who got the sharp-edged, bloody end he deserved. Jacob and his “mother” were awful, awful people and the new Island-leading team of Hugo and Ben will be much, much better. They’ve been manipulated by Jacob and Smokey and seen how it destroys people. They’ll do better.

I loved that Jacob was just the first of many protectors, as evidenced by his “mother” and the fact that the Egyptian stuff in The Heart of the Island clearly predated Jacob the Roman. And I loved that at the very end, when Hugo is in the church and Ben is outside, it suggests that after Hurley gives up the mantle of Island protector, Ben takes it. There is no time in the church, Christian says, and yet Ben waits outside because he has things to do. This, to me, suggests that he’s immortal now and the new protector. I like that.

Still, a lot was left unanswered. We’ll never find out why pregnant women died in childbirth on the Island, even though this was a major plot point and mystery in Seasons 3 and 4 and was even responsible for the introduction of a major character (Juliette). We’ll never find out quite why Smokey’s leaving the Island was so bad or when the Egyptians came or why the hell Desmond and Jack didn’t turn into Smoke Monsters when they went into The Light, like the Man in Black did.

Most of it boils down to fuzzy writing, the product of writers banging out a show at breakneck pace and trying to account for all the mysteries they introduced to keep the show running. Lost is a nearly impossible writing exercise, an attempt to write an epic adventure/mystery/scifi/mystical novel one chapter at a time. A truly satisfying conclusion was pretty much out of the question.

Great writing comes in the editing, comes in the redrafting, comes in rewriting chapter 1 to fit what the writer has figured out about his or her own story by the time he or she hits chapter 88. Lost didn’t have that luxury. Chapter 1 was already out, already published and they had to live with it. I think the writers could have done a better job with some of it and gotten past their annoying habit of just dropping mysteries or plot lines that no longer interested them.

But while the mythological resolution of the show came up short, the emotional ending was powerful. In the end, that’s what will stay with me. The scenes of the Losties reuniting in LA and remembering their lives (because, the alternate LA was a kind of way-station to the beyond, right?) really got to me. I loved that it wasn’t just true love that brought them together. Jack sparks Locke’s memories, Christian’s coffin sparks Jack’s. It was sappy, I suppose, but after all the characters had suffered, it seemed well-earned. I don’t quite like the “alternate universe was purgatory”, but seeing Sawyer and Juliette find each other and Kate telling Jack “I’ve missed you so much” was deeply affecting.

Uneven, exciting, frustrating, corny, touching: “The End” was everything Lost has always been, and ultimately reaffirmed the show’s primary theme since the pilot–we live together or we die alone. And that last shot, that was wonderful and really well done. Beautiful, fitting, poignant, perfect.

I’ll miss you, Lost. Thanks for six wild years.

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3 Comments

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  1. interesting points, sir. I shall have to do my own Lostrospective as time permits.

    I think that if you gave the first season of the show to every generation’s finest sci-fi-minds you would end up with incredibly diverse results.

    I does not bother me that they did not have everything planned out. Which doesn’t mean I am completely satisfied either. Serialized storytelling is damn hard, and they picked their path and executed it pretty well.

    I wouldn’t have turned the smoke monster into a character, but that’s just me.

    • Me either. I think the decision to make him a guy, and make Jacob something other than the invisible dude trapped in a cabin, were the points that the show took a direction away from awesome and towards adequate.

  2. Great post, Sensei! I totally agree that the finale was emotional–and that the emotion was well-earned. I definitely got teary at all of the moments you mention (and a few others). I also agree that the mystical stuff didn’t make a boatload of sense. I was left with tons of questions, which is frustrating, but not unexpected. You’re so right that writers of almost every other form have the “luxury” to revise from beginning to end–and from end to beginning. It must be incredibly difficult to have to crank out a chapter at a time without the ability to change the past.

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